Home Weight loss Lack of sleep when on a diet causes more muscle loss, less...

Lack of sleep when on a diet causes more muscle loss, less fat loss, increases hunger hormone.


To add to the growing body of research that shows that lack of sleep makes us fatter, or slows fat loss if we are on a diet, here is an article from: ScienceDaily (Oct. 5, 2010).

It shows that a lack of sleep while on a diet increases muscle instead of fat loss, and increases your appetite, by increasing the hormone ghrelin, which makes you hungry.

Cutting back on sleep reduces the benefits of dieting, according to a study published October 5, 2010, in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

When dieters in the study got a full night’s sleep, they lost the same amount of weight as when they slept less. When dieters got adequate sleep, however, more than half of the weight they lost was fat. When they cut back on their sleep, only one-fourth of their weight loss came from fat.

They also felt hungrier. When sleep was restricted, dieters produced higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger and reduces energy expenditure.

“If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels,” said study director Plamen Penev, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “Cutting back on sleep, a behavior that is ubiquitous in modern society, appears to compromise efforts to lose fat through dieting. In our study it reduced fat loss by 55 percent.”

The study, performed at the University of Chicago’s General Clinical Resource Center, followed 10 overweight but healthy volunteers aged 35 to 49 with a body mass index ranging from 25, considered overweight, to 32, considered obese. Participants were placed on an individualized, balanced diet, with calories restricted to 90 percent of what each person needed to maintain his or her weight without exercise.

Each participant was studied twice: once for 14 days in the laboratory with an 8.5-hour period set aside for sleep, and once for 14 days with only 5.5 hours for sleep. They spent their waking hours engaged in home- or office-like work or leisure activities.

During the two-week, 8.5-hours-in-bed phase, volunteers slept an average of 7 hours and 25 minutes each night. In the 5.5-hour phase, they slept 5 hours and 14 minutes, or more than two hours less. The number of calories they consumed, about 1,450 per day, was kept the same.

The volunteers lost an average of 6.6 pounds during each 14-day session. During weeks with adequate sleep, they lost 3.1 pounds of fat and 3.3 pounds of fat-free body mass, mostly protein. During the short-sleep weeks, participants lost an average of 1.3 pounds of fat and 5.3 pounds of fat-free mass.

Getting adequate sleep also helped control the dieters’ hunger. Average levels of ghrelin did not change when dieters spent 8.5 hours in bed. When they spent 5.5 hours in bed, their ghrelin levels rose over two weeks from 75 ng/L to 84 ng/L.

Higher ghrelin levels have been shown to “reduce energy expenditure, stimulate hunger and food intake, promote retention of fat, and increase hepatic glucose production to support the availability of fuel to glucose dependent tissues,” the authors note. “In our experiment, sleep restriction was accompanied by a similar pattern of increased hunger and … reduced oxidation of fat.”

The tightly controlled circumstances of this study may actually have masked some of sleep’s benefits for dieters, suggested Penev. Study subjects did not have access to extra calories. This may have helped dieters to “stick with their lower-calorie meal plans despite increased hunger in the presence of sleep restriction,” he said.

The message for people trying to lose weight is clear, Penev said. “For the first time, we have evidence that the amount of sleep makes a big difference on the results of dietary interventions. One should not ignore the way they sleep when going on a diet. Obtaining adequate sleep may enhance the beneficial effects of a diet. Not getting enough sleep could defeat the desired effects.”

The National Institutes of Health funded this study. Additional researchers include Dale Schoeller, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; plus Jennifer Kilkus, MS, and Jacqueline Imperial, RN, of the University of Chicago’s General Clinical Resource Center; and Arlet Nedeltcheva, MD, at the University of Chicago at the time of the study but now at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Hi Neil,

Thanks for that.

One aspect we also wished to include was a valuation that took into account the rental return.

We bought the property with the intention that it would be a source of income for us when we retire. We never intended to sell it.So our main concern in all this is that we will have to go out and buy a replacement property, or properties, that gives us the same rental return and is as easy to rent.

A valuation based on just plain comparative sales always seems to leave us short changed – in that there is no way we could get the same rental return from an ordinary house of a similar price. The Act specifically says that we should be no better or no worse off if our land is compulsorily acquired by the crown. If we end up with less rental income per week, then we are manifestly worse off.  We have spoken to Transit about this. They acknowledge the point and they are willing to entertain a valuation based on what it would cost us to find a similar property or properties returning the same rental income.

So we will be looking at similar properties, I guess about the same distance out from town that would return the same amount. The property is unusual as it has two separate rentable dwellings on it, and each is attractive to live in. In the nine years we have owned the property, neither dwelling has ever been empty. We appreciate that it may be impossible to find an exactly comparable property, but we’d be happy with two smaller properties that combined gave the same figure, even though it is more work.

We currently get 260 per week for the flat and 480 per week for the house. We have not increased rent for 5 years due to the fact we have good tenants who take care of the section, garden, waterblasting paths etc and mowing the lawns.

We would therefore also like to have a valuation figure also based on rental return, i.e. a similar desirable property, in a similar area with a similar rental return.


Julianne & Mark McNeill


  1. I totally agree about sleep but it is more complicated than just get more sleep for many. It is the chicken or the egg thing where which one started first. Was it my Fibromyalgia that caused my poor sleep or did my poor sleep cause my Fibromalgia? Some say Fibromyalgia is a sleeping disorder. Then the less sleep you get the more tired you are and the more you hurt the less exercise you do. It just snowballs after that. The more weight, the less sleep the more pain in muscles and I have gained weight consistently over the years and the longer it goes the fast the weight comes on. I finally got a cpap after HMO, Kaiser Permanente took 8 months to test, get results and schedule for getting machine. The masks are minimally designed for the populations and not much to pick from and should be much better.
    This morning on one of my posting on another site about sweets, some one posted this link to a lecture which was amazing and scary as hell about how our sweets are hidden in foods and making us sick and obese. I had no idea to what extent this was happening and tried to avoid the bad stuff but it is in everything and with the right combination it is no wonder we have an epidemic of obese folks including 6 month old babies!
    There is a lot of science in the lecture and it does go a long time but I really think this lecture should be mandatory for all high school and even middle school children to watch or perhaps another lecture with this basic information done to target kids would be more appropriate. They also really need to have a national campaign explaining this to adults.

    • Deanne, it is a frustrating cycle. It is important to start where you can – with the things you can control. Like food. Fibromyalgia responds to diet, I have a client whose symptoms a minimal when she eats lowish carbohydrate, sticking to mainly vegetables, especially non starch, colourful ones, no sugar – I agree sugar is pretty bad stuff and fructose even worse. I don’t eat any sugar at all. Grass fed protein – meats, seafood and poultry. Cut out all vegetable oils apart from olive oil, macadamia nut oil and avocado, coconut. Take a lot of fish oil, get your vitamin D levels up above 50. Add magnesium and perhaps a good quality multi for a while.

      Robb Wolf discusses fibromyalgia in his latest podcast. http://robbwolf.com/2010/10/05/the-paleo-solution-episode-48/

      Here too is an interesting article from Strand – his wife improved with anti-oxidants and other nutrients.

  2. Thank you Julianne. Never had any doctor say my insulin levels were off so this is a revelation for me. Yes I do crave carbs and sugar and after listening to Mr. Wolf’s radio session on Fibromyalgia this is the first real helpful info I have received in what I can do to help the condition. No fruit for a long time. I plan to pick up the Natural Calm magnesium bedtime supplement.
    I use flax seed oil supplements, 1,000 mg but maybe fish oil would be better. I switched with the recent controversy about mercury in fish oil.
    I am now taking 4,000 units of vitamin D along with gummy multi vitamin which didn’t upset my stomach and a zyrtec and lately one ibuprofen to help swelling.
    The pain is great and it takes like 3 or 4 ibuprofen to really affect the pain and my stomach can’t tolerate that. Plus not a good idea to take so much ibuprofen since my dad had done it a couple decades earlier and he ended up with aneurysm. So I just live with the pain. I do that since I have little trust in drug companies and the HMOs that prescribe them for good reason.

    I was talked into taking Paxil for 3 years by HMO and wondered if that had messed things up with serotonin in brain. It certainly fried my memory. After 3 years I was apparently overdosing accidentally on it since it builds up in your body I guess and they lowered my dosage. It was so bad I didn’t know what day it was and they would have to call me to make sure I got to my appts with them. This surprised me since I asked them specifically if is was addictive when they prescribed it since I was concerned since we had substance abuse in the family and I didn’t want anything that caused that. I realized towards the end of getting off of Paxil ,the worst part, that I had been duped and was very angry and did it on my own since I could not trust any of them anymore. My docs and everyone became very scarce and I later found out that they put in my record that I was allergic to Paxil which was news to me. No one ever told me that. I was on it for 3 yrs! I spend the following year with the affects of it slowly dying out. I have since read that some prominent World Health organization says Paxil is the most difficult drug to get off of . That is saying a lot. I did it and that says a lot. So I live with the pain for years since I do not want to get on pain drugs ever again since it really messed up my memory big time. I feel like I have made huge progress in reconnecting my brain but I am still in a fog.

    Dr. Strand’s testimony regarding his wife is very good but I feel like he is selling too much on his site and feel there is a real conflict there IMHO.
    I already put in curtains and shades in bedroom to keep out all light at night in bedroom. I also bought one of those more expensive foam bed toppers 4″ and that has helped a lot.
    I have been doing the diet for maybe two weeks now at most and have noticed positive changes in myself and husband.
    my eczema on a couple of fingers disappeared
    the rosacea on my forehead which I treated with prescription cream is now gone
    the swelling in my ankles has been reduced significantly and continues to get more normal
    Over all puffiness is going down in face, hands, arms, legs, my skin is less taught from the overall swelling
    Stuffiness in nose is less and only using one shot of prescription nasal spray before bedtime for cpap and am thinking about whether to eliminate the generic daily zyrtec or nasal spray eventually here soon.
    My sleeping seems to changing, more vivid dreams not sure what that means I have more energy so I must be sleeping better but still in fog
    Pain on side of the hips is practically gone. Pain in other areas is less for sure and I move more easily and want to move more and am moving more.
    I have had sort of diarrhea and maybe I am detoxing in some way?
    On the negative side, my husband has noticed I am more assertive and less in carb fog.
    I weighed myself and not losing weight but it is clear I look less puffy and my body is changing and looking a bit thinner.
    My husband is also less puffy and he is looking thinner in fact one of his peer teachers asked him if he was losing weight and they have no idea about our switch to Paleo. He does look thinner. We are both obese for sure. He is moving a lot and doing much more and I don’t think he realizes how much more.
    I think our coloring is more pale less reddish in our faces.
    To get him to avoid sweet stuff at meals is huge. Before Paleo he was always opting for sweet whenever possible. Little things like sugar in coffee, jam on any kind of bread, ketchup with anything practically etc. I was always telling him he doesn’t need so much sweet stuff with his meals to no avail. He loved his chips with anything or everything, said he needed something crunchy. He hated fruit and would do minimal veggies and got sick of salads quick. So for him to switch to Paleo is huge. He loves meat and the fact he can eat beef, pork and chicken has been the winning ticket for him to stay on this. He is 6’4″ and big guy and is responding more to high protein diet compared to high carb diet. He is allergic to shellfish but we eat cod and salmon and tuna too. We are thinking that maybe down the road he will try some shellfish to see if things have changed there with the new diet. We are seeing changes in just two weeks and it really makes us rethink our possibilities.
    I wished I had learned about this long ago. I had been to so many specialists who just shrugged and retold me I had Fibromyalgia and did really nothing to help. I even went to a seminar the HMO put on for Fibromyalgia patents and the room was packed with overweight women. In fact one gal said “hey look at us we are all over weight, does that mean something?” All the docs did was pass out a bibliography to patients to send them on wild goose chases to keep us out of their hair really. It was a joke. The seminar too so long that women were passing out drugs to each other since they hurt so bad from sitting so long. The testimonies from the women there was frightening. I had brought my husband along with me as back up memory and get his take on all of this. We were shocked at the pain killers these women were taking, hard stuff, and basically how HMO wanted to track us as pain management and get us out of their hair. A message therapist was there to speak and he told us “we are not going to chase down all your aches and pains”, after which the whole room exploded in loud groans. They don’t provide massage services for Fibromyalgia patients and couldn’t explain why they didn’t. The gals there were in an up roar about that since we all know it helps. Even Dr. Strand found that out!
    If Mr. Wolf is right about this insulin thing that would be huge. Fortunately we have switched health care providers since. I plan to go back to my current docs after a few months on this diet to get their take on all of this. I plan to make believers and converts within the medical community as much as I can if this works out. I know it is working but I want it to be vast improvement where they are speechless.
    One of my daughters works for health care provider setting up new clinics and she is dating a guy who is working on his Phd and you better believe they will notice the improvements.

    • Wow, I’m so glad you are noticing improvements already. High blood sugar levels (high carb diet)which in turn provokes a high insulin response is a huge factor in any sort of inflammation. Gut irritant foods, that also trigger auto-immune issues are also a big factor in inflammation. The other big one is omega 3 and vitamin D deficiency.
      I suffered a lot of inflammation and eating paleo foods, lowish carb, taking fish oil and vit D has completely eliminated all my inflammation.

      I’d recommend you get some fish oil – it makes a huge difference, flax oil is very ineffective compared to fish oil. If you can afford it at least initially – pick up a bottle of liquid oil OmegaRx from Dr Sears, http://www.zonediet.com and take a tablespoon each day with breakfast. It is guaranteed mercury and PCB free.
      Once I added large doses of omega 3 I had a huge reduction in inflammation and crippling menstrual pain.

      It does take some time for your body and gut to heal – but once you are on a healing diet, things will only continue to get better. The diarrhea should diminish. You do get toxins released from fat cells as you lose weight.

  3. I agree that it’s not as simple as getting more sleep. I don’t have fibromyalgia, but I do have trouble sleeping! I wish I knew what to do about it. I’ve tried just about everything I can think of. And of course the more I worry about not sleeping, the less sleep I get. Thanks for posting this, Julianne.

  4. Hi julianne, so if im on a diet but one day a week i was not able to get a full nights sleep — lets say i only was able to catch abt 3-5 hours — what can i do the next day to compensate so that i am able to counteract the effects of lost muscle and retention of fat?

    • In the study the participants had restricted sleep – 5.5 hours a night for 14 consecutive days, so the effect was cumulative. One night’s short sleep does affect you – it will increase hunger and insulin resistance. Eating well, and lower carb will help control this. Make sure you don’t overeat when you’ve had less sleep. One night every so often will probably have less effect than always sleeping too little.

Leave a Reply